Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a legit action star wasted by Netflix’s Kate

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Anyone making the next Alien sequel or spin-off should consider making Mary Elizabeth Winstead the successor to Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ellen Ripley. Since its breakthrough in Scott Pilgrim vs the world, Winstead has grown into a self-confident actress whose physical confidence, sardonic line deliveries and shaggy cut evoke the sci-fi icon of Weaver. Whether she plays Amanda Ripley, the canonical daughter of Ellen, or a clone of Ellen herself (a narrative possibility imagined by Joss Whedon in 1997 Alien resurrection), Winstead should be unleashed against the Weyland-Yutani Corporation so everyone can watch the sparks fly. Maybe taking on that sort of iconic role could keep Winstead from a tedious fare like Netflix’s action flick. Kate.

Another unimaginative female-led action flick written and directed by men who telegraph their twists and turns and rely on flashbacks instead of worrying about writing character development, Kate mistakes “women can kill as well as men!” For some sort of new idea. It’s not – not for Netflix, immediately after Milkshakes with powder, and not for other studios, with The protected and Shaking piling up each other in stilettos for the past few months. The film’s portrayal of Japanese culture as an islander obsessed with “honor” and dismissive of foreigners isn’t particularly fresh, either. And the western fetishization of yakuza as businessmen with samurai swords is also becoming quite commonplace.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, in Sunglasses and Bloody Totoro Shirt, in Netflix's Kate

Photo: Netflix

Winstead and stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio, who have previously worked together on Birds of prey, deserves better than that. You could at least watch Kate for the fight scenes alone and be a little satisfied. On Birds of prey, Gemini man, and 10 Cloverfield Way, Winstead developed a physical confidence as a performer that encircles his work as Katethe titular assassin. She’s ready when she aims a sniper rifle and controlled when she hits a gun in someone’s face after running out of bullets. With a dagger or a broken glass bottle, her movements are swift, practically churned, as she stabs again and again and again. And Eusebio is adept at coordinating the smooth one-on-one action scenes that have become his favorite style over the course of the John Wick franchise projects at The fate of the furious, Out of whack, and Nikita.

This approach benefits Kate, which positions its protagonist as a woman standing against waves and waves of yakuza limbs. Kate rams men’s faces into hibachi grids, rises and stands between buildings so she can shoot her pursuers down, and slices her fingers off before stabbing the men in the mouth. Cinematographer Lyle Vincent turns the camera around to confuse audiences with upside down fight scenes. He composes close-ups of blood splashing across shoji screens and relishes Winstead in slow motion, making his way through the neon green laser lights of the riflescopes. The violence isn’t quite ultra, but at least it adds some excitement to the otherwise lackluster storyline.

Winstead plays the role of an assassin who “hasn’t failed once in 12 years.” She murders people at the behest of Varrick (Woody Harrelson), her master / boss / father figure. Varrick tells her who to kill, and she does so without asking any questions. (It’s unclear whether Varrick works for a larger government entity or runs an entire assassination operation on his own.) This lopsided relationship has worked since Varrick adopted her as a child. (This may sound remarkably similar to setting up The protected, because it’s – Maggie Q and Samuel L. Jackson have the same dynamic in this movie.)

Kate’s latest targets are high up in a Japanese criminal family, but she believes something is wrong with the job. First, she was ordered to kill someone with her teenage daughter there – a major violation of protocol. Then, 10 months later, she is called upon to kill the big boss, Kijima (Jun Kunimura) – and her body seems to rebel against her actions. Composer Nathan Barr plays cacophonous, bouncy electronic music to indicate Kate’s body is malfunctioning, while editors Sandra Montiel and Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir shatter Kate’s vision with side angles and jarring flashbacks. Kate misses the point and when she sees a doctor for the problem, she is diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome, which will kill her within a day. So she devotes her last 24 hours to tracking down Kijima and decides to use Kijima’s teenage niece, Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau) as leverage.

Or Kate then also goes where netflix Milkshakes with powder go. Again, a cold-blooded killer who happens to be female is given a tragic story, with a child she considers a younger version of herself, and runs into an array of male characters who mainly see female characters as their subordinates. , which is supposed to be ironic, since they are killed by a woman. This is the expected story, and Kate does not deviate from it. Umair Aleem’s storyline makes Kate dream of quitting the kill game for a suburban life with a family, then sweetens out to Ani due to their common orphan status and mutual penchant for soda. Japanese Boom Boom Lemon. It’s a whiplash-inducing change in motivation for a character who until then has murdered strangers for over a decade without a second thought.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead channels her inner Ripley as Miku Patricia Martineau stands in Netflix's Kate

Photo: Jasin Boland / Netflix

Ani has her own whiplash evolution, ranging from telling Kate “Fuck you, cancer bitch” to “You’re so cool” in the span of about 20 minutes of narrative time. Martineau deserves credit for the zeal with which she tackles this deeply trying dialogue. But there isn’t much of an authentic feminine touch, or touch of believable human behavior, in the conceptualization of these characters. What did Kate want to do with her life before Varrick called the shots? Does she have friends ? Has she ever been in a relationship, or is one night stand (as she did with a character played by Michiel Huisman) a self-imposed rule? Does Ani’s biracial status ostracize him in school? Does growing up in yakuza mean that she never had a female model? Would she consider leaving Japan? Who are these characters, beyond their obligatory plot functions?

Neither Kate nor Ani find themselves entirely three-dimensional, and to be fair, such depth could arguably be superfluous to the thrilling impact of Winstead’s first kicking scenes. But when the second half of the film focuses on Kate and Ani’s affection and allegiance to each other, that decision doesn’t seem justified because they are so superficial. Unless the filmmakers want viewers to believe that Kate and Ani are primarily linked by being “gaijin” strangers? As a bonding factor it is sparse, but as another element of the “Japan Hates White” film clichés it follows.

Nonetheless, Martineau’s high-energy Ani contrasts well with Winstead’s impassive Kate, and their engagement is key to briefly lifting the film from all the limitations that bog it down. The devious villains, who keep talking of honor, are covered in tattooed Japanese scriptures, wield samurai swords and machine guns, and call aliens “monsters” are shrouded in serious grandiosity. Kate bloats these villains to such an extent that the easy moments of female power he gives Kate and Ani aren’t an effective countercurrent. “I don’t look away anymore,” Kate says dramatically in the film’s third act, describing how the past 24 hours have changed her. But apart from his fight scenes, Kate not worth watching either.

Kate premieres on Netflix on September 10.

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